The Story that upholds us

A modern story – with the self as lead actor

Venn is committed to holding before its alumni community a theological vision that challenges the assumptions behind the modern understanding of freedom and identity.

In 21st-century Western culture, the dominant modern narrative of the self holds that we are radically free to choose what we believe, want, and need – as well as what is right and what is wrong. These are matters of the human will, which is the ultimate authority.

The radical autonomy of the modern self leads to the particularly modern anxiety associated with the pressure to create meaning in the world, rather than receiving a way of life and purpose from outside of us.  Modern individuals are disconnected from larger stories and contexts, so anxiously hunt about for an identity to create. The powerful narratives of consumerism are ready at hand and shape this identity-making process.

The human longings for community and for belonging to something greater than the self are sabotaged by a conception of self that views freedom from community and larger narratives as the only authentic path to selfhood. Moreover, the modern view of freedom makes problematic political, legal or economic effort in the name of the common good, because there is no such ‘common’ good outside the basic good of freedom.  We seek solutions that serve people as individual units, where it is in fact this definition of self and its political, cultural and economic enactment that causes many of our societal and personal griefs.

History has borne this out.

Another story – with someone else at centre-stage

The challenges our culture faces are, in the end, theological and anthropological: Who is God? Who are we? Our political, economic, legal, and cultural problems cannot be solved if we are to merely reinforce the narrow modern view of freedom and selfhood.


We are in need of an alternative story and vision.


At Venn, we see that story revealed to us in the Gospel — the good news. It is a story with a vision big enough for all of life. It is big — and it is true. This Gospel finds both its end and beginning in the person of Jesus – God become flesh. It engages with questions of meaning, purpose, truth, beauty, life, justice, suffering, joy—the common core of human experience — and provides compelling, but challenging, answers.


This Gospel – with its Christ and its Cross – confronts our precious concepts of freedom and identity. It subverts our traditional hierarchies of power and control. And it inverts our popular notions of winners and losers – of successes and failures.


This Gospel, quietly but firmly, demands a radical review of our obsession with self and with status.